I like to say that I got “foreal saved” around the age of 13. I say ‘foreal’ because my home was forever Christian, however the point where that lifestyle became my own took place on the cusp of middle school for me.
My introduction to faith brought the highest highs and the most beautiful friendship with the Lord that I have ever experienced. But then one day, the emotional euphoria of doing life with Jesus evaporated and I panicked. I panicked because I no longer felt him, which had to mean he was no longer close by. I no longer experienced this chorus of heaven’s approval that I had come to know when I prayed, which could only mean my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. And God felt distant altogether, which meant the enemy had plenty of room to help me come to erroneous conclusions about the Father I had just spent so much time learning and loving.
Can I be honest? I have unpacked and am currently unpacking another layer of what that season did to my heart. I learned a few years later that this process was a weaning off of being led by my emotions spiritually. I had to learn that God’s Word still stood even when I didn’t feel it. And the time between grasping that truth and experiencing that shift was about four years. I can say with all the vulnerability I can muster that I felt abandoned by God for four years, even though each day and every breath proved exactly the opposite. But I felt it was true. The only thing that held me was God’s grace and knowing beyond a shadow of any doubt what I had experienced the months prior. I felt much like Peter in John 6:68 when Jesus (having just lost a multitude of followers) asked if the Twelve would abandon him too. Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope].(AMP)” I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but I did know I just couldn’t quit.
In the Christian walk so many of the virtues we aspire to would remain mere aspirations without the bedrock of perseverance. In some of my favorite verses, the Amplified Bible calls it “patient endurance”. Hebrews 12:1 states, “ Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us...” When I see that phrase, what comes to mind is a marathon runner’s endurance. I once heard a track coach instruct his team- “You can’t think about the finish line. Just focus on your breathing and your steps.” Patient endurance. That’s the kind of stick-with-it-ness that resolves to finish and finish well. This is the essence of perseverance. If you are going to fulfill that call God has on your life, you must commit to persevere.
There’s a saying that goes, “Life is short but it is also long.” While life can feel like it’s zipping by, there is also somewhat plodding pace to our existence. And in life’s long-ness, opportunities for weariness, discouragement, frustration, offense and disappointment abound. Consider Job’s trials. Remember Jesus warning us that we would have trouble in this life? Paul’s letters never shy away from the undulating nature of his life and ministry. Despite doing the very thing that God has assigned us to do, there will be times when we find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation, blindsided by unforeseen circumstances or grappling with a less than desirable outcome. These are the moments where we are often tempted to sit the next round out and find ourselves, if only in our heart, accusing God of not holding up his end of the bargain.
Perseverance is important because if you don’t quit, you win. That’s what Galatians 6:9 says right? You will reap if you faint not. The same sentiment is echoed in Hebrews 10:35-36 and again in Hebrews 6:12. Keep going because continuing is an expression of your faith and faith always receives the promise.
So how does one develop perseverance, that marathon runner’s pace? You start with a decision. You commit daily. Perseverance is much like a muscle- the more often that you exercise it the stronger it becomes, the more a part of you it becomes. Unfortunately, quitting works the same way.
The second layer is to be anchored in the love of God. Remember, hard times and difficulties are going to come. The first temptation will be to turn on God as if he had something to do with the difficulties that you will experience. That is the furthest thing from the Truth. He is more invested in your life going according to his good plan than even you and I are (Jer. 29:11, Eph. 2:10). Knowing God for yourself, knowing his love, his with-ness, and his for-you-ness is imperative to keeping your heart free from offense at God. Get good at airing those secret thoughts and wounds with him to allow him to tell you exactly how he sees you and your situation. His perspective and purpose are always higher and he wastes nothing!
Lastly, lean on Him. There have been different times in my faith walk where I have been woefully aware that I do not have the strength to do what God is asking me to do. Finances, life seasons, relationships, you name it. On one such occasion when I was feeling depleted and exhausted, I felt the Spirit of God whisper, “You don’t have the strength? No problem. Here’s mine.” I was stunned and somewhat skeptical of that being how things worked so I immediately went to fact check and found the support for that word: Ephesians 6:10- “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” Lean on him, lean into him. Rely on him. Depend on God to do what it is you need done- in you, for you, and through you. Ask Him to do those things and expect to see Him come through for you. Lean heavy on Him, friends.
It’s not usually pretty and it is almost always uncomfortable. But it is an essential discipline of the believer. It’s how a convert becomes a disciple. To abort the mission by your own hand is not only tragic, it is terribly unnecessary. God is right there in you giving you the desire and ability to meet every challenge in pursuing heaven’s call (Phil. 2:12-13, Romans 8:11). Like the writer of Hebrews so beautifully depicted in chapter 12, others have gone ahead of you and I, finished their course and heard “well done”. With an attitude determined to follow in their footsteps, let us, too, commit to finish well.
Written by Gilon Marts
Walking Well Podcast Host and Mental Health Professional